NEW YORK—If you are virtual office users, then it’s likely that you also have a LinkedIn account. If so, beware. A hacker stole 6.5 million LinkedIn user passwords and is actively cracking them.

Troy Gill, a security analyst at AppRiver, shared with us some password tips for virtual office users, who are likely to use all sorts of web-based software applications—possibly with the same passwords. So if you are using any sort of virtual office technology and want to keep your personal information safe, check out these tips:

Even though it’s nearly impossible to make anything 100 percent secure, Gil says by utilizing multi-layered security practices, beginning with your password, you will make it much harder for anyone to get a hold of your private data and information.

  1. The first step in creating a secure password is to think length. For each character or symbol you add, the security of that password rises exponentially. A basic rule to keep in mind: avoid selecting a password of less than seven characters.

  2. Another step is to make the password appear as nothing more than a random string of characters to someone else that may see it. You can do this with what appears to be a random selection of letters—in both upper and lower case—numbers and punctuation from all over the keyboard. Another rule to keep in mind: try to avoid sequential or repeating instances.

  3. One good method is to use look-alike characters in substitution for other letters in your password. For example, use @ for ‘a’,   $ for ‘s’, 1 for ‘I’, zeroes for ‘o’, or the like. However, be aware that there is a slight risk if you use only this technique in an attempt to obfuscate your password. There are many password guesser programs that are well equipped to be aware of these rather simple substitutions and will try to replace the symbols with letters themselves. Therefore, if you’re still using common words as a basis for your password, such as “cH0c0!@t3” for the word “chocolate,” you may not be any more secure.

  4. To avoid this, a good trick to try is to create a long acronym or partial words from a phrase to throw off any sort of dictionary based attack. For example, take a long sentence that you’ll remember, such as “I hate making up new passwords,” and turn it into !h8MunP@$s.

If you want a secure virtual office it means selecting secure passwords.

Want more info on how to create a strong password? Check out this YouTube video: